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Adobe Adds DRM to Flash Player

March 24th, 2008 by Dean Jansen

Adobe is making room for old business models in new technology; they recently announced Digital Rights Management (DRM) integration with their server software. This will allow publishers to dictate users’ every interaction with media and will be integrated across Adobe’s platforms. This is horrible news for consumers and free speech — in addition to creating false scarcity, it limits our ability to effectively comment on mainstream media.

Aside from being anti-free speech and bad for consumers, the added DRM is even more damaging to the open web than Flash video currently is. Right now, putting video inside Flash Player makes it difficult and sometimes impossible for search engines, aggregators, and feed services to index and parse. Adding DRM will exaggerate these difficulties and will also make each of these practices illegal, without explicit permission from the originating website.

Imagine a web where Google had to get permission from each website to add its contents to their search results. The legal issues are because of a US law, called the DMCA, which makes it illegal to tamper with encryption, even when you’re making fair use of the underlying media.

This story is particularly alarming because of our growing dependence on Adobe products for web video publishing and playback. However, there is a bright side to the story — just look at the history of DRM. Consumers have been rejecting it for as long as it has been produced, because it interferes with their ability to use media in ways they normally expect. As a result, major record labels have realized that DRM hurts their businesses and have mostly given up on it.

8 Responses to “Adobe Adds DRM to Flash Player”

  1. stephen says:

    I love how companies try to make a profit through whatever means they find necessary, in this case making a profit out of thin air. Way to go capitalism, way to bring the future by restricting information and eliminating development.

  2. eyen says:

    If you look at project metavid they are developing an open source, standards compliant and completely DRM free embedded player that is a drop in replacement for flash. I am certain it will get picked up by people after they realize how horrific flash is as the de facto embedded player for the internets.

    http://metavid.ucsc.edu/wiki/index.php/Mv_Embed

  3. John says:

    I really don’t understand how DRM in Flash is “anti-free speech”? Also, about the search engine argument … don’t most media files have associated meta-data that is not binary? Wouldn’t the search engine just use the meta-data? Why would a search engine parse binaries?

    I’m no fan of DRM but I don’t exactly understand those 2 points.

  4. Dean says:

    John,

    Those are both good questions.

    Part of free speech is the right to comment on people, ideas, things. When video is locked down with DRM, it becomes very difficult and/or illegal to access the material, for the legal purposes of commenting, parodying, or satirizing. Furthermore, it’s not enough to just point to a video that is hosted on some random server or hosting service — it could disappear. So in the end, it’s really critical for people to have the ability to incorporate external media into their own work.

    While a meta-data wrapper is a great thing, it isn’t the same as being able to scrape the video itself for information. I know that automated voice recognition/transcription is still pretty young, but as this stuff becomes more powerful and widespread, having access to the video file itself will become important.

    Hope that spreads light on the issue. If you have any more questions, ask away.

  5. DRM is a good idea in THEORY ONLY.!!!!!!!

    The consumer is be force feed the DRM as a side dish to the Digital Revolution. While the Studios and MPEAA, and the RIAA, cry poor and blame piracy as the reason they’re “losing money” they push DRM on us,consumers are in grave danger of losing their freedom to use their media as they see fir as long as it falls into “Fair Use” The problem is DRM will destroy consumers rights entirely, and the consumer won’t realize it until its too late.
    l By then it will be too late, the laws will be in place and hardware manufactures will have given into the RIAA and others to cripple or dumb down their hardware to work within the specifications. The story above about DRM is another example of DRM creeping in and limiting our fair use of material. Please check my blog to read my other ideas..
    http://kenenthlawson.blogspot.com/

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